Northampton School for Boys, 15 March 2020
Twelve Worthing players travelled to Northampton to compete in the Preliminary round of the U17 National Age Group Champs. Several of the girls were below age group (including 2x 2006 and 1x 2007 player), or had experienced very little competitive matchplay, so the emphasis was on performance and not results. Coach, Alastair Roberts, was keen for them to learn and develop game on game.
The girls had to finish in the top 8 nationally to go through to the next Qualifying round.
Worthing v Otter
First up were the favourites to win the group, Otter, who had no less than 5 GB U17’s in the starting 7 and were used to playing together as a squad in the National League.
Otter came out of the traps fast, putting the Worthing girls under pressure from the off. An early Worthing exclusion allowed Otter to open the scoring, followed quickly by a second for the London side. With only one minute gone and 2-nil down, early indications suggested a rout, however the Worthing girls regained their composure and began to slow the pace and pass the ball with confidence.
Two fantastic penalty saves from Maddie kept the Worthing girls in it. Otter managed to slot two more goals in from open play, before Caitlin attacked on the counter, opening the scoring for Worthing.
In the second half some brilliant passing saw young Bella Power break through the solid Otter defence and fire the opening goal of the half home for Worthing. Otter recovered their three goal advantage before Bella hit home with her second in 2 minutes, bringing the score to 3-5.
Fatigue started to set in against a very physical, more experienced, side and the opposition began to dominate. Several breaks from the Worthing girls went unrewarded as shots went high and wide.
Full time: Worthing 3 – 11 Otter:
Goals: Bella 2, Caitlin 1.
Exclusions: Jodi 2, Sophie 2, Caitlin 1
Liverpool v Worthing
The Worthing girls obviously learnt quickly from their Otter experience. A burst of speed by Caitlin Silk cut through the Liverpool defence to put Worthing 1-nil up within 21 seconds of the start. Liverpool hit back immediately, levelling the score.
Worthing retaliated again, Ruby passing the ball with precision, dropping it just in front of a charging Caitlin, allowing her to twist and turn through the defence to level the score. A couple of exclusions and a penalty against the Worthing girls allowed Liverpool to widen the gap to 5-2.
Liverpool tried to mark Caitlin out of the game and slow the exhausting pace. Giulia, battling it out in the pit, began to make space, allowing her team mates to start dropping the ball in on her. Grace managed to get the ball to her and Giulia found her range with a rocket to close the gap to two goals. Within 14 seconds, Liverpool had regained the three goal advantage, increasing their lead again and again. With a minute to go until half time Worthing were losing 8-3.
On the restart, Giulia passed the ball back to defence and headed straight for the 2m line. Sophie dropped the ball in on her and she smashed it into the back of the net. 8-4!
For the last 30 seconds of the game, the Worthing defence pressed the Liverpool players hard resulting in a brilliant turnover. With Liverpool caught out of position, and unable to keep up with Caitlin’s pace, she charged at the goal and lashed the ball home with 6 seconds left on the clock to complete her hat-trick
The start of the second half was a tetchy affair. The Worthing defence continued the press, causing the Liverpool girls to become increasingly frustrated. Giulia’s hat-trick came just over three minutes into the half, as a result of another ball dropped within perfect reach. By now, the girls were being cheered on from the stands by all the spectators and the Otter team.
Caitlin and Giulia scored their fourth goal apiece with 3 minutes left on the clock to bring the score back to an agonisingly close 9-8.
Caitlin, now being marked by two players, was pulled back resulting in a Worthing man up. The ball was popped around the arc beautifully. The girls were all aware of the clock and didn’t rush the move, then Giulia, at the perfect moment lashed the ball home to level the score!! Liverpool managed to get a goal with a minute to go, though gave away a penalty, which Worthing were unable to convert. The match finished 10-9 to Liverpool.
The girls had worked so hard to bring themselves back from a 5 goal deficit. Each and every one of them played their part and they were incredibly unlucky not to have come away with at least a point. This was by far the best I’ve ever seen the U17s play.
Full time: City of Liverpool 10 – 9 Worthing.
Goals: Giulia 5, Caitlin, 4
Exclusions: Ruby R 2, Caitlin 2, Maddie C 1, Jodi Trombas, Giulia V, Allegra C, Sophie C
Worthing v Birmingham
The girls had to win this game to be sure of a place in the next round. Caitlin managed to settle the nerves by scoring within 12 seconds of the start.
The blistering pace then faltered as Birmingham tried to contain the attack. Worthing had plenty of opportunity to extend their lead, but some scrappy play and several wayward attempts on goal disrupted the flow!
Birmingham levelled the score after a two minute stalemate, giving Worthing the kick up the backside that they needed! Fed by Ruby and Bella on the wings, and thanks to a beautiful pinpoint accurate pass from GK Maddie, Caitlin notched up a first half hat-trick. Young Allegra Cuomo popped up and held her nerve to score her first goal of the competition and Giulia added another thumping shot to her tally. Worthing finished the half, barely getting out of first gear – 5-1.
The second half took a while to warm up, and neither team seemed like scoring, as the ball was turned over in midfield for over 2 minutes. Florence, the youngest of the squad at 13 years of age, pressed a Birmingham player, winning the turnover, passing the ball on to Caitlin to open the goal tally for the half.
After another couple of minutes of play, it was Tahlia’s turn to find herself in space and calmly slot the ball home. Some great defending at the back thwarted the efforts of Birmingham to get back into the game. Some great saves by Maddie and interceptions by Grace, Florence and Sophie ensured the ball was quickly distributed back down the wing.
The Birmingham players started to tire and the Worthing girls took advantage of their speed and agility. Jodi filled in at centre forward, keeping the Birmingham centre back busy, whilst Caitlin ran riot down the wing. Beautifully weighted passes by Mia, Bella and Ruby. With all Worthing girls suddenly full of confidence and energy, great passing resulted in Caitlin getting a last minute hat-trick. Yep, that’s right, three goals in under a minute!!!!
Full time: Worthing 11 – 1 City of Birmingham
Goals: Caitlin S 8, Allegra C 1, Giulia V 1, Tahlia V 1.
Exclusions: Ruby R 1, Allegra C 1, Tahlia V 1.
Worthing v Watford
On paper, this should have been a close match, but the stand out performance against Liverpool, and the subsequent win against Birmingham, may have taken its toll on a team not used to such physicality in matches.
The match started well, with Caitlin hellbent on beating her PB for how quick she can score a goal from the whistle. Despite being the swim-off player, she still managed a pass-and-go, breaking through the defence and scoring in 11 seconds. From that point on, it was a nervy half. Some great pressing and defending stalled Watford’s ability to break through into dangerous areas.
Eventually, the Worthing defence broke down and Watford got two goals in 23 seconds. Worthing were doing all the hard work. They were getting turnovers and attacking the Watford defence, but the shot accuracy was off and Watford went into half time 3-1 up.
On another day, Worthing would have won this match. Giulia regularly muscled herself into space and let off numerous shots under pressure hitting the crossbar no less than 8 times, and the post a further three. She kept persevering, but luck just wasn’t on her side.
There were several other shots by Caitlin, Giulia, Ruby and Bella that went over or were tipped wide. On any other day, these may well have found their way in and this would have been a whole different match. The full time score did not reflect the effort and chances that Worthing made, but that’s sport!!
Full time: Watford 10 – 1 Worthing
Goals: Caitlin 1
Exclusions: Grace B 1, Tahlia V 1, Giulia V 1, Caitlin S 1.
Final word from Coach Alastair Roberts:
I was really proud of the way that the team played, and although we only won the match against Birmingham, I thought that everyone in the squad gave everything they could in all of the games. The performance against a very strong Liverpool team was immense and although I have coached teams more years than I care to remember, I will always cherish how we nearly secured a positive result in an unbelievably exciting end to the match. Ultimately we really had a go on Saturday and having finished 4th in the group we can now say that we are one of the top 8 teams in the country which doesn’t sound so bad!
Well done for getting through to the Qualifiers, girls. You did fantastically well.
Report and photos courtesy of Becci Henderson